The Theology of Islamic Art

In late 2017, Zaytuna College, America’s only Muslim liberal arts college, invited three artists: Eleanor Aisha Holland, Abdulatif Whiteman, and Oludamini Ogunnaike, to spark a thought-provoking discussion. The topic was one rarely discussed before in Islamic religious circles: the connection between Islamic art and its theological tradition.

Modernity Against Tradition

Modern Islamic culture has fallen into the cut-and-paste mould that runs on the heels of modernity’s fast-paced culture. Our mind’s eye, when reminded of Islamic art, conjures forth a mishmash of bright colours, geometric designs, flower patterns and arches and domes. Islamic art becomes a fast solution, something we can strap on “for the culture,” rather than a process which builds on personality and experience. As such, everything from mosque walls to Islamic apps are caked with these images which, although aesthetically pleasing to a certain degree, fail to do justice to the creative process that backs authentic Islamic artistic tradition.

How to Define Islamic Art

A large part of Islamic art does, of course, come from the Islamic identities of the artists themselves. However, what defines Islamic art is the form and structure which emerges from the Quranic revelation.

For example, there are many strong poetic traditions that come out of places such as Mali, Java, and Malaysia. Although they share the common thread of Islamic religion, their cultures are vastly different. The poetry from those societies reflected the poetry of their own cultures, but also included meter and rhyme, as well as imagery which reflected from the influence of the Quran. The same pattern can be seen in the vocal traditions.

Saints Who Are Artists

What distinguishes Islamic art is not how it looks or sounds. Rather, what makes Islamic art special is that it comes naturally, out of an experience felt by the artist. For example, poems like Rumi’s Masnavi or Iman al-Busiri’s Al-Burda, were not penned by poets doing their work. Rather, these poets had deep experiences with Allah and His Messenger, which led their poetry to natural flow in a way that was graceful rather than forced. They were not simply artists cultivating a craft, they were saints who happened to be artists.

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Imam al-Ghazali: The Unlikely Seeker

iran, ghazali

Photo by Sander van Dijk on Unsplash

by Omar Sallam

A child is born, probably to a great joy for his family. This child would sadly grow up and lose his father. With no money, he is sent to seek means for funding. Years later, he would be attacked by brigades. Without going further in this story, if I were to ask, “does this look like a biography of a transformative figure in human history?” It doesn’t seem so.

The ironic reality, this story is about one of the most famous and influential figures in Muslim history, Imam Abu Hamid Muhammad al-Ghazali. He grew up in poverty. He lost his father at a young age and faced various other challenges. However, Imam al-Ghazali is also the scholar who attained the highest levels of academic knowledge of his time, rose to prominence at this time, and reached an experiential knowledge of Islamic spirituality in an unparalleled way. While, there are many factors that contributed to his success, one that can’t be overlooked is his lifelong attachment to learning.

Humble Beginnings

Imam al-Ghazali learned the basics in his hometown of Tabaran. He was sent to be a student, after the funds his father left with his caretaker ran out. A religious caretaker was entrusted by his father, who himself both loved preachers and scholars of his time. In our age of social media, claims to expertise, and selling oneself, many don’t value basics in comparison to the allure of appearing sophisticated. Imam al-Ghazali climbed the path to knowledge on trodden steps. His basics established a foundation for further studies that shaped his future.

At the Feet of a Giant

Later in his life, he traveled to study with one of the giants of Islamic scholarship and geniuses of the world, Imam Diya al-Din ‘Abd al-Malik al-Juwayni. After inheriting much knowledge from his teacher one would think, that would be sufficient, but he didn’t stop there. He learned and sought spirituality on top of his mastery of rational sciences, theoretical sciences, and mastering the ability to preach and teach.

Where are Certainty and Fulfillment?

Imam al-Ghazali, not feeling content, went through a crisis of his own. That crisis led him to resolve the prior dilemma of teaching publically and seeking spiritual solitude to attain certainty. He wouldn’t take a break from teaching for a month or two, nor a year or two, but a full decade. In it, Imam al-Ghazali left prestige, fame, the ego, and spiritually developed himself unlike any learning previous experience he had before.

Spiritual Seeking

After reaching spiritual realization and contentment, he penned his knowledge in classics and mainstays of a spiritual tradition that are read until this day. He sought spirituality, experienced it, and even shared some of this experience in his autobiography and various other spiritual works. He would eventually return to his town, but not intending to teach. After much pleading he agreed to teach, but everyone that knew him realized something profound has changed about him. It seems that Imam al-Ghazali can now retire…

Hugging the Tradition

Imam al-Ghazali, always the seeker, established a space for spiritual seekers and gave them his care. His life-long journey to seeking didn’t stop. It is related he would hold hadith collection of Imam al-Bukhari to study and hug. The tradition he embodied, was still sought, but this time in the knowledge of hadith, which he probably didn’t feel he studied sufficiently before.

Soon after, the curtain of his life would draw to his close as he met the fate of every human, mortality. Imam al-Ghazali died in 1111 CE, but nearly 900 years later, his legacy inspires several questions.

Ask Yourself…

Are we willing to embrace our commitment to life as seekers? One would benefit from approaching the deen with the attitude of a lifelong learner. Just like many are encouraged to do this careers, we owe it to our souls to make every year an addition to our knowledge. Whether it is essentials, or enrichment, or a reaction to a life change, one can always find something to learn that is obligatory or recommended.

Will we approach our realities with wondering curiosity? One beautiful quality in children is nonstop questions. Adults can be stagnant with life turning into a reaction to bills. Dig deep in your past or current state and ask what are the saved questions you want answered. Prioritize them and then engage with those learned or seekers of wisdom about.

Can we be honest with ourselves and not just about the outward world but our inward world and be genuine people rather than pretenders? As we move to life it is hard to imagine no visits or stays from arrogance, or vanity, or show off. We should learn to grow and be curious, but we should also learn to polish our innermost jewel our hearts.

As long as there is life, there is a chance to seek. May God give us the will and success to do so.

What Were The Prophet Muhammad’s Forefathers Like? by Shaykh Ibrahim Osi-Efa

In the Qur’an, God Almighty has sworn upon the land of Makkah. Shaykh Ibrahim Osi-Efa explains what the scholars understand to be the significance this oath, and the importance of the people who dwelled upon this land before and during the time of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him.

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The Noble Intention of Parents

From Habib Kadhim Al-Saqqaf – Parenting in the Modern World Raising Pious Children

Translated by Shaykh Ahmed Abdo, during the Australian tour, 2017

The noble intention of mothers, fathers and grandparents has an effect on subsequent generations. That’s why we find great Imams, like Imam Bukhari, Imam Shafi’i, before they were born their parents made noble and pious intentions for their children and look what came of them. It is quite clear that good pious intentions of parents will impact upon their children.

The great Salahudeen Ayoubi, he was the one responsible for the re-opening of Jerusalem al Quds. His father was a little delayed in getting married, however he really loved the scholars and the Awliya and he used to frequently visit the scholars and pious ones. So they used to always say to him “Why don’t you get married?”, and he used to always come up with excuses trying to avoid marriage altogether. They wanted to take him to the various scholars and have explained to him why getting married is good, for you are going to get have children and get lots of rewards. And we have in a hadith that two rakats from a married man is more virtuous than 72 rakat of a man that is single. And he used to say, “I just can’t find the right match”, so the people just left him.

And so one day one of the pious men in the city came to this particular shaykh, and he said look every time someone comes to court my daughter I find that these men are just not good. So this father came with his daughter to the shaykh, in order to have the shaykh persuade the daughter to accept one of these proposals. She was from a poor family, but she was quite knowledgeable, she was quite beautiful, she was intelligent.

When she comes to the shaykh with her dad, he says to her “Why don’t you want to get married? Allah has brought different young men to wed you, however you reject them, you’re intelligent you are understanding, you are beautiful”. And she responds to this shaykh, “I don’t want to get married to any ordinary type of man, the man I want to get married to, I want him to be the father of a child that is not ordinary but is a really pious one that Allah is going to grant victory to the Muslims through.”

At this response the shaykh said, “My daughter, this is a good intention, just wait out until that right man comes who is going to be the father of your children, that will allow the victory of the Muslims. And so whilst this young lady was with her father and the shaykh, some of the men came saying that outside is Najmudeen Ayoub the father of Salahudeen, he wants to speak with you. So the shaykh said to the lady and her father, if you could just move to the side a little I’m going to have a discussion with some other people.

Some people came in with Najmudeen (who was the father of the great Salahudeen) saying that they needed some private time with him. So these other men who were with Najmudeen said to the shaykh, “This is one of our generals of the Ummah of the state, Allah has given him wealth power and control and he still doesn’t want to get married.” The shaykh said to Najmudeen “Why don’t you want to get married? Allah has given you all these things.” And so this man says, “Look shaykh, let me let you in on a secret, I can marry the greatest women of the greatest generals of the army of the Muslims, however I don’t want any ordinary girl. I want a women who understands the importance and value of marriage, I want a woman who will be the mother of a general — a leader of the Muslims. And so the man said, “Shaykh, I don’t care if this women is the daughter of some army general of the Muslims or is from a poor family, it doesn’t really matter, just a girl that understands the value of marriage and who wants to be a mother of a child that will be a general a leader of the Muslims.” The shaykh said, “Don’t you worry my son I have this lady here for you with the same intention.

And so we have here a perfect match of intentions of the man and women who want the same thing from their children and they became the mother and father of this great conqueror and general Salahudeen Ayoubi. Therefore the Muslim man and women should make noble intentions before the birth of the child for that piety, this is first, such that we can produce a generation that holds and bears good and benefit for all people and Muslims.

Notes by Ali Chaudhry ~ Parenting in the Modern World Raising Pious Children ~ Habib Kadhim As-Saqqaf ~ Australia Tour 2017

The Virtues of Jerusalem and the Believer’s Five Duties Towards It

Masjid al Aqsa is one the holiest mosques for Muslims. It was once the direction of prayer and is the place where the Prophet ﷺ led all the prophets in prayer and ascended to heaven to meet his Lord.

The noble sanctuary has had numerous conditions set upon it since the occupation began and has now been closed for the first time in 48 years. Shaykh Faraz Rabbani explains the virtues of Masjid al-Aqsa and the Muslims duty of concern for the furthest sanctuary:

May Mercy and Justice prevail, in the ways resulting in the greatest ultimate good for all people, in the ways most pleasing to God. Truly, God is our sufficiency and He is the best of guardians.” – Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Shaykh Faraz Rabbani has made the slides from this talk available, you can download them here.

References for seekers:

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Strobe Light Islam, by Shaykh Walead Mosaad

It’s 2017 and yet Muslim minds remain as colonised as ever. Shaykh Walead Mosaad explains why.

As I sat in the main hall at an Islamic conference hosted by a large national organization I had difficulty making out what the speaker was saying.  Perhaps it was the alternating purple and red strobe lights, or maybe the replaying video of a mosque from Shiraz or Isfahan projected on an enormous screen situated some twenty feet behind the speaker.  It felt similar to what I felt when I toured the Dolmabache palace in Istanbul this past summer, a 19th century European style place of residence for the last Ottoman sultans, replete with lion sculptures adorning manicured gardens, and English chandeliers towering over French style ballrooms within its halls. And not so dissimilar from a mosque I sometimes attend that has placed in its foyer a collection box for mosque improvement, zakat, and one labelled “Imam fund”, presumably to go towards the salary of the yet to be hired full time imam.  

While all three experiences appear dissimilar, the common thread between all was a sense of alienation.

Offensiveness and tastelessness rather than entreaty and allure.  Dispiritedness rather than restoration.  Ugliness rather than beauty.

Beautiful, endearing, and appealing

Islam – and everything connected to it, even by the most remote of connections – should be beautiful, endearing, and appealing to both body and soul.  The Prophet Muhammad was the embodiment of such beauty, both outwardly and inwardly, from the softness of the palm of his hand, to the mercy shown to his adversaries, but it is as if the community has in some fashion detached itself from this profound and penetrating truth.  The means and mode should be as beautiful as the ends.  Or as one of my teachers remarked: the means are the ends.  Utilitarianism is anathema to the pristine Prophetic teachings.  Noble ends cannot be achieved except through noble means.   

Muslims created civilizations that projected this beauty, from the acoustic balance and perfection in the Sultan Ahmet mosque, to the melodies of the Andalusian muwashshaḥ (form of poetic litany). No aspect of human endeavour was left to a worldview alien to Prophetic inspired paradigms.  Yet, here we are.

Oversimplification of tradition

Our inability to retain and transmit the aural imperatives of the Prophetic teachings, that is, what is the purely human element of the Islamic tradition, has no doubt contributed to such a lack of refinement.  The sacred texts themselves, as well as the corpus of scholarly literature, including all of the Islamic disciplines such as tafsīr, fiqh, theology, and so forth, are widely available and are no further than a keystroke. In earlier periods, a costly commission of the warrāq (manuscript copyist) would have been necessary to obtain a manuscript of Saḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, or the Risāla of Imam al-Shāfi‘ī.  Yet, despite the unprecedented ease by which the texts can be obtained, shallow and vacuous representations of the Islamic intellectual tradition persist.   The oversimplification of this tradition, as enforced by some via their unwritten endorsement, has led to a paralyzing lack of appreciation for the sophistication of the Islamic teachings.  Many are the dilettantes who troll social media querying those with whom they disagree for the all-powerful dalīl (textual evidence) that will sanction a particular devotional practice or point of view, not knowing that the understanding of textual evidence is not so simple as citing a single Qur’ānic verse or ḥadīth, but requires trained experts to properly invoke and interpret.

Loss and humiliation

Hence, one is forced to conclude that the transmitters of these texts – the ‘ulamā’ – are the lone variable that must account for the shortcomings.  The dismantling of the institutions and systems by which scholars were trained during the colonial era no doubt played a large part in contributing to this situation, but the colonization of the Muslim mind perhaps reveals the greater story.  In the reaction to this colonization, or perhaps as a direct result of it, Islam became an ideology, where the main objective became the capturing of power, whether political, or otherwise, in order to reinstate Islam at the top of the intellectual, social, and cultural pyramid. The formation and proliferation of the “Islamic group” often in direct opposition to state power, attests to this new reality.  These groups were often at odds with one another, but they shared a common genealogy predicated on the notion of solicitation of power and influence as a means to reform a community that had lost its way, evidenced by the ease in which colonial powers had humiliated them, and the perceived ease by which they had installed puppet despots to preside over them.

Amidst this changing landscape and redefining of Islamic polity, the state of the Muslims prior to colonization was often cited as the culprit, and more specifically the state of Islamic understanding and practice in these pre-modern communities.  The community had slipped into decadence and forgotten the pristine teaching and practice of the Prophetic and early period.  Terminologies, pedagogies, and devotional practices that had developed since the early period were dismissed as reprehensible innovations that summoned God’s wrath and led us to this pitiful state.  As such, Islam had to be cleansed from these innovations and purged of all its egregious representations.  An accompanying demonization of the “other” also ensued, as their corrupting influences were also to blame.   

Yet, here we are, nearly a century removed from physical colonisations, but the Muslim mind is as colonised as ever, burdened and embossed by the quest for validation and a seat at the table of influence.  But how successful are we if the price for such a seat is if all we are is a mirror reflection of those sitting to the left or right of us? I agree with the reformists that Muslims are in need of a return to its apodictic foundations. However, this return cannot be the recreation of an epoch firmly planted in the past, but rather the resurrection of timeless foundational imperatives that have been abandoned in favour of pragmatism and expediency, retaining only a simulated outer shell.  The Muslim mind must return to the Prophetic model in the manner that it observes and interprets the book of creation, to discern its signs, and abide by its prompts and commands, to see the divine attributes manifested in all that is, was, and ever will be.  Our epistemological system must be revived: verification and criticism in dealing with the khabar, the report of another one was not witness too, rather than seamless dissemination if the right identity dynamics are invoked.  

Our theological system must be revived: acceptance of the divine decree, without despair, and the recognition of the direct correspondence between that which our hands sow and divine correction.  Our system of jurisprudence must be revived, recognizing the sophistication of the four schools, and the still relevant juristic tools that guide the qualified jurist to address the complex societal issues of contemporary life.  And perhaps most importantly, our ethical system must be revived, as it is our principal contribution to the world.  Ethics, morals, and just interactions with all our relationships are that which distinguishes us from our fellow brothers and sisters in humanity.  The Islamic tradition has a vibrant and time tested system for human development, i.e. for each human being to reach his or her full human potential, as this is manifested in their understanding of reality, their ability to follow the divine commands and avoid the divine prohibitions, and their morals and ethical behaviours.  A revivification of the foundational principles and their application and contextualization for our tumultuous times is what is desperately needed, but such a project cannot be carried out by self-proclaimed “mujtahids” and “reformists” who advocate simple realignment of Islam with tempestuous and ever-changing Western norms, or advocate literalist and vacuous interpretations of the sacred texts to justify sectarian agendas.  It can only be carried out by true Muhammadan heirs, who resoluteness is tempered by their mercy and desire for well-being for all of God’s creatures.  Perhaps many Muslims are not ready to hear their message just yet, but that does not change the pertinence and urgency of its significance.

Trump Glitch – A Historical Recap by Ustadh Salman Younas

Ustadh Salman Younas offers some perspective as the controversial property and media mogul, Donald J. Trump assumes his position as the President of the United States of America.

This is a very brief history recap.
The Muslim community endured the death of the greatest creation (peace and blessings upon him). This community then witnessed the Ridda wars. During the caliphate of Umar, the community experienced extreme drought and a virulent plague that killed thousands in Egypt, Syria, and Iraq. This was followed by the assassinations of Umar ibn al-Khattab and Uthman ibn Affan, the second and third caliphs respectively. The community then went through a period of prolonged civil war where thousands of people died, including numerous Companions, and which concluded with the assassination of Ali ibn Abi Talib, the fourth caliph. A brief reign of peace under Mu’awiyah was interrupted by the massacre of al-Husayn and his family, the siege of Mecca where the Ka’aba was destroyed, and the events of Harra where hundreds of Muslims were killed in the holy city of Madina. All of this, and more, occurred within seventy or so years of the establishment of the Muslim community.
Following the consolidation of Ummayad rule, the situation was no less difficult. Tyrants like al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf were given free reign to oppress the community: exorbitant taxes, mistreatment of non-Arabs, imprisoning and killing political opponents was common. The grievances in many segments of the population ran high. Consequently, political unrest and rebellion became a constant feature during this period: the Berbers of North Africa, Ibn al-Muhallab, al-Harith ibn al-Surayj, and Zayd ibn Ali, all led armed revolts against the government within a span of three decades or less. This is not to mention the severe financial crisis during the last two decades of Ummayad rule, the depletion of the army, and more. Eventually, the dynasty collapsed after the Third Fitna and a series of bloody battles over a span of five years that saw the Abbasids come to power.
This was also the experience of the Muslim community during the reign of the Abbassids. While there were a number of positive developments and years of intense prosperity, there was also continued political instability. There was the Fourth Fitna. Then there was the Fifth Fitna and the Anarchy of Samarra that saw four caliphs violently come to power and fall in the span of ten years due to the intense power plays of rival military groups. Then there was the nearly 15 year long Zanj rebellion, which was described as “one of the bloodiest and most destructive rebellions which the history of Western Asia records.”
Right now we have only reached the year 270 A.H./883 A.D and have only focused on internal Muslim problems. After the Zanj rebellion, the Qaramita engaged in a rebellion that lasted years and years and killed many. They ended up stealing the Black Stone from the Ka`ba. We still have twelve hundred years to go, which include the Mongol invasions that wiped out the eastern Muslim lands, the collapse of the caliphate, colonialism, and more.

What is the point of relaying the above?

What is the point of relaying the above? The Muslim community endured all of this. This community is still here. Not only are we still here, but we are a billion strong and growing. The same periods that saw such horrible and intense strife, killing, oppression, and distress also saw the creation of people like Malik, Abu Hanifa, Shafi`i, Ahmad, and righteous people committed to God, to justice, to worship, to knowledge, to hope, to love, to good, to helping the poor and oppressed, and more.
Trump is another glitch and in the context of what we have endured as a community he is a minor glitch. We will continue to do what we have always done: move forward and strive to spread the good and truth trusting in God in whose power all things are. God is the one in charge and this being the case we must firmly believe in His promise to preserve this message and the religion brought by His beloved Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him).
Shock, anger, and sadness are all natural responses we have as humans to events we experience. Yet, our community does not despair. Rather, we recognize our challenges and face them the way the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) taught us to face them. So long as there is one person who says la ilaha illa allah, one person who places his forehead on the ground in prostration, or one person who invokes blessings on the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him), etc. the struggle for truth and righteousness will go on with the aid of God, Today, there are a billion plus people who fit the above description. Muslims are here to stay and our religion is here to stay by the promise of God.
Let’s get to work.

Ustadh Salman Younas is a teacher at SeekersHub Global. Check out his writings and fiqh answers on the SeekersHub website and also follow him on his own page on Facebook.

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Caribbean Calling: Nourishing Communities of Faith, by Nazim Baksh

sh_saadAt the beginning of the blessed month of Rabi’al Awwal 1438, Shaykh Ahmad Saad Al-Azhari will visit the twin-island Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago. He will give a series of talks on the Sira of Allah’s Messenger , peace and blessings be upon him, at local mosques and will teach from Al-Nubdhah Al-Sughra at the prestigious San Fernando Jama Masjid.

Shaykh Ahmad’s host is Maulana Siddiq Nasir and his Ahlus Sunnah Wal Jama’ah Institute (ASWJI), the same organization that recently hosted Shaykh Faid Muhammad Said and Shaykh Muhammad Al-Ninowy. Maulana Siddiq is one of the early graduates of the Aleemiyah Institute in Pakistan. Seeker’s Hub has endorsed this initiative. Sidi Nazim Baksh will be accompanying Shaykh Ahmad on this tour and in this article he explains why it is important for Muslim scholars to continue visiting Muslims in the Caribbean.

Shaykh Ninowy in Guyana, March 2016

Shaykh Ninowy in Guyana, March 2016

What Exactly Constitutes an Authentic Expression of Islam?

For the last three decades Muslims who live in Guyana, Trinidad, Barbados, Jamaica and other Caribbean islands, have been grappling with the thorny issue of what exactly constitutes an authentic expression of Islam. It wasn’t always like this, but it has made the Caribbean a highly desired destination for a variety of foreign scholars and organizations looking to make their mark.  
In Guyana and Trinidad, countries with the largest communities, the majority of Muslims are direct descendants of indentured labourers who were brought from India to cultivate rice and sugar plantations during the British colonial period. There is also now a growing number of converts to Islam mostly from the African West-Indian communities across the English-speaking Caribbean.   
While indentureship ended in the early 20th century, the East-Indian Muslims stayed on, raising families, establishing businesses, forging communities and building mosques – 140 alone in Guyana.
Although religious texts were imported and disseminated locally, it played only a limited role in keeping people connected to the religion. The rhythm of Islamic spirituality for the mostly agrarian communities were the intermittent visits of a number of respected scholars who were grounded in tassawuf.  

Mawlana Siddiq
Nazim Baksh with Maulana Siddiq Ahmed Nasir

Historical Scholarly Visits to the Caribbean

In the 1930’s Maulana Sayed Shams-ud-Din visited Guyana traveling by boat from Trinidad where he was a scholar in residence for two years. Maulana Abdul Aleem Siddique’s visit to the region in 1950 makes him the most prominent scholar in this period to have visited and spend time in both Trinidad and Guyana before he died in 1954 in Al-Madinah and was buried in Al-Baqi.
Maulana Fazlur Rahman Ansari was a young man when he accompanied Maulana Siddique and he returned to the Caribbean in the 1960’s to conduct seminars and encourage local Muslims to establish educational institutions. He would later create the Aleemiyah Institute in Pakistan where three young Guyanese and one Trinidadian were offered scholarships to study sacred knowledge. Maulana Siddiq, our host, was one of the them.

Maulana Noorani
Maulana Noorani in Guyana in the 1960s

Maulana Shah Ahmad Noorani also visited the Caribbean in the late 60’s and early 70’s and he single-handedly revived a love and devotion to Allah’s Beloved Messenger with his inimitable style of reciting Qasidas and making the standing during the salutation on the Prophet known locally as ta’zim, a standard feature at all types of major religious gatherings.
He was so well-liked that the Muslim leaders of Trinidad made an LP of his recitation of the Quran along with his renditions of a few qasidas. Today, there are still men among the older generation of Muslims who imitate his style of reciting the Quran.

The Infusion of Alien Religious Ideas

As the 14th hijri century came to an end the Islamic waters of the Caribbean got murky with the infusion of alien religious ideas. Not surprisingly, the first practice that would be attacked was the central role of Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, in Muslim religious life. Opposition to the Mawlid was fierce and the singing of qasidas in praise of the Prophet was seen as a throwback to bygone days and an imitation of Hinduism. Some even labeled it as shirk.     
Political organizations based in the United States began to focus their gaze on the communities in the Caribbean. The Nation of Islam was one of the first, but soon Dar al-Islam and The Islamic Party of North America led by Yusuf Muzaffaruddin Hamid, began setting up branches in the Caribbean. Both organizations were militant but also heavily influenced by the ideology of Hasan Al-Banna’s Muslim Brotherhood and Syed Abul Ala Al-Mawdudi’s Jamaat-i-Islami.  
The first murder to take place in the name of Islam in the Caribbean happened in 1985 in Trinidad when a group of men gunned down an Ahmadiyya Missionary in front of his teenaged son. The men were followers of Jamaat Al-Fuqra, a U.S. based organization headed by a Pakistani mystic that was an offshoot of Dar al-Islam.
Long before Osama bin Laden and Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi dreamed of establishing a Caliphate, Imam Yasin Abu Bakr staged a failed coup in Trinidad in 1990. His goal was to establish a Caliphate according to an important report on the failed coup. Six people were killed and Abu Bakr’s Jamaat Al-Muslimoon caused millions of dollars in damage.  

Largest Number of Da’esh Recruits Per Capita in the World

Today the government of Trinidad estimates that 130 adult men along with their wives and children – some 400 in all – have left the country in the last three years to join Da’esh in Iraq and Syria. This makes Trinidad the country with the largest number of Da’esh recruits per capita in the world. Some of them have taken to social media to declare Yasin Abu Bakr an apostate of Islam because he no longer pursues the path of Jihad and Hijra.
The convenient course of action is to ignore the Caribbean because afterall it is on the extreme periphery of Muslim majority countries. To do so is to ignore the vast majority of Muslims who desire to live respectfully and peacefully in a faith-diverse community as their ancestors have for well over a century with their Christians and Hindu neighbours. We have a moral obligation to assist the silent majority by opening for them the doors of sound Islamic knowledge lest some of them fall prey to a vigorous campaign by violent extremists.  

Resources for Seekers

caribbean islamCover Photo by Samuel David

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Ethics of Healing – Dr. Ingrid Mattson

We need to step back and look at our community holistically and ask ourselves: is this a healthy community? How is the Muslim community at a global and domestic level?

Join Dr. Ingrid Mattson at an interdisciplinary theological conference regarding the relationship between ethics and medicine and its direct impact on the Muslim community and  polity. She invites the listener to ponder on the relationship between ethics and medicine in the context of the community.

“As Muslims we are a work in progress as a community. Being a Muslim is fundamentally about becoming rather than being and there are times when we are in flux more than certainty and uncertainty makes humans anxious,” states Dr. Mattson.

Our age and communities have become defined by change and mobility. We have never been as mobile as we have been today, and it’s not going to end.  If there is no accurate understanding of the demographics of a particular community there can easily be corruption and wrong-doing even if it stems from well-intentioned minds and hearts. What defines our regulatory bodies? Our policies and concerns? What connects our communities in the hospital setting?

“Chaplains are equipped to be the bridge between medicine and ethics,” declares Dr. Mattson.

Chaplains bring the healing presence that the Prophet (SAW) represented. They bring full presence and the human touch. We have evidence that touch is healing, presence is healing and caring is healing and that is the tradition of the Prophet (SAW). These actions are the healing and human presence in the medical setting.

We are grateful to Initiative on Islam and Medicine for the video. Cover Photo by  Alex E. Proimos


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"Modern Physics Does Not Believe in Red Apples" – Dr. Umar Faruq Abd-Allah

“Modern physics does not believe in red apples” – Dr. Umar Faruq Abd-Allah quotes the physicist Dr. Wolfgang Smith.

Modern physics says that red apples are only two dimensional in their existence, which we humans perceive as red apples. However, Muslims believe that red apples exist in their third dimension, says Dr. Umar. Great Muslim scientists  of the past studied science for self knowledge, as the believer’s worldview is that we are the blueprint of the world and the world is a blueprint of us. Hence, when we study the world, we are studying ourselves.

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Cover photo by Christopher Woo. Our thanks to Umran TV for making this video available.